The current growth momentum in South Africa’s agricultural sector, which I have written about several times over the past few weeks, is not just a development of the past two seasons. If one casts an eye back to 2010, just two years before the official publication of the National Development Plan, the agriculture sector’s aggregate volume of production in 2020 was 19% higher compared with that year. This was spread across all subsectors, i.e., horticulture, animal products and field crops – although at varying levels, with field crops having shown more modest growth.

If there is one thing the sector could be faulted on over the past decade, it is that focus on the inclusion of new black farmers into the commercial level has taken somewhat of a backseat. Still, while this may be true at an overall level, some partnership programmes between government, farmers and agribusiness have yielded positive results in integrating black farmers into the commercial farming level. From a policy perspective, inclusion (in addition to growth) is an underlying theme to the government’s programme, such as the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan.

Still, I believe that the agricultural sector could have expanded more than what we observed in the past decade had it not been hindered by the following challenges, (1) inefficiencies in state administration, (2) infrastructure challenges, (3) lack of security in rural areas and (4) prevailing uncertainty.

First, on the issue of inefficiencies in state administration, I have recently discussed the problems facing local governments, but this extends to biosecurity challenges, such as the need to strengthen animal health, meat hygiene, and state veterinary service at the national and provincial levels, among others.

The spreading of Foot and Mouth Disease and African Swine Fever Disease show the importance of having an efficient and agile response mechanism to animal disease. Fortunately, this matter has reached policymakers, and thus, industry leaders and government are working together to establish mechanisms to respond more efficiently. The enforcement of the Agricultural Products Standards and inefficient staff complement are some of the issues that should be addressed to strengthen the state effectiveness.

You can read the full article by clicking here (paywall). The article was written for and first published on News24/Fin24.

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